First Minister’s Meeting on Climate Change

The long-awaited First Minister’s meeting on climate change happened yesterday, March 3 2016. It was somewhat anti-climatic given that Trudeau made this meeting part of his fall campaign pledge. Essentially, he has been talking about this  meeting since last summer. And then it just… passed us all by.

Meh.

The 13 premiers met with Trudeau and McKenna is Vancouver. (I imagined it was rainy). Prior to the meeting, Trudeau announced an aspirational goal of a set minimum price on carbon ($15 dollars a tonne is the number he threw out). Brad Wall of Saskatchewan immediately said no (see prior post).

What did happen yesterday? The CBC offers a gloomy recap here.  There was no agreement on a carbon price. Instead what emerged was yet another set of promises and goals. We call these “frameworks” or “strategies.” Officially, it is titled the Vancouver Declaration on Clean Growth and Climate Change (perhaps such a grandiose name makes it seem more important). The list of goals includes:

  • developing “regional” plans for clean electricity
    • this includes Indigenous and remote Northern communities
  • doubling investments in clean energy research over the next five years
    • this includes electric cars
  • more investments in green infrastructure (like public transit)
    • this includes working together to leverage the federal Low Carbon Economy Fund

That is really it. There was also an agreement to meet again in October.

The premiers did agree on the “need” for “some form” of carbon pricing – but there was no agreement on what approach to use (Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia are hindrances to creating a national price). This will be a focus for the next meeting. The Premiers are supposed to go home and figure out a carbon pricing mechanism that works for their province (so a tax or cap & trade or any pricing mechanism).  In addition to that task, they are also supposed to focus on clean technology, unique (province specific) opportunities to reduce emissions, and adaptation measures for their province.

Where does that leave Canada? Remember that our UN Paris Pledge is 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. That is what we promised the international community. Essentially, as a nation we need to bring our annual emissions down to 534 mega tonnes. Current trends suggest we will be somewhere around 750. Thus, the provinces must act.

Trudeau was not able to secure a carbon price from the provinces. This is disappointing, but not surprising. What we have is more promises but little action. Ontario and Alberta have announced new climate strategies. BC, MB, and QU already have strategies in place (albeit it might be time for BC to update its carbon tax). But that leaves us with 5 provinces out of 13 – that won’t be enough. Of particular concern is Saskatchewan, which has the highest GHG emissions per capita and Wall refuses to entertain any strategies other than “off-setting” the status quo through carbon sequestering.

In the next six months the provinces have a lot of homework. In October, Trudeau better circle the provincial wagons and get everyone facing the same direction. We don’t need new declarations – we need leadership and action.

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